Several years ago it seemed as if there was less litter in the Woodstock business district and residential neighborhood than there is now.
Now – the neighborhood has changed and grown; more people are on the streets walking to new coffee shops, businesses, and restaurants. Also, neighbors seem to be less inclined to pick up trash in their immediate area, out of concern for safety and sanitation.
However, not everyone feels that way. One Woodstock resident, whom you may have noticed on the weekends, is showing what one person can do to improve the neighborhood, and he feels good about giving back to his thriving community.
Barron – who gives no last name because, he says, we all belong to one human family – lives east of S.E. 52nd Avenue, just south of Woodstock Boulevard. He says, incidentally, that students at Grant High School, where he has substituted for twenty-five years, actually just call him "Mr. Barron".
With gloves, a "grabber", an orange safety vest, and three bags – one for recycling, one for garbage, and one reserved for items to donate, keep, or take to hazardous waste – he has been walking Woodstock Boulevard and other major Woodstock streets picking up litter, in all seasons, for fifteen years.
Since he teaches during the week, and says traffic is too heavy anyway on weekdays, his litter pickup is usually confined to a Saturday or Sunday morning. He gets out on the street as soon as it is light. Now you know who that man is, and what he is doing.
"I started fifteen years ago on my own street, because the wind blows a lot of litter to the end of this dead end street." Very soon, he expanded his range to go along the boulevard, and some other major neighborhood thoroughfares.
Barron has lived in Woodstock for thirty-four years, and says that with so much more traffic and more people walking, he is surprised that the amount of litter over his fifteen years of picking up has actually remained fairly steady. If it has, he is probably at least partially responsible for that.
Barron uses a "grabber" with small plastic suction cups the size of a quarter, at the end of the two prongs. He says these grabbers are available only at Lowes Home Improvement and at Home Depot, but he finds them invaluable for picking up even the very small thin rings from the necks of milk jugs or juice containers, or from single-use plastic bottles run over by bikes or cars.
"Small pieces of plastic go down the storm drain and eventually flow into the Willamette River," he says. "I also carry small red marker flags that are commonly called 'survey flags' to stick in poop, so people don't step in it. One time I was marking one pile and stepped back into another! But the little flag helps. You don't want poop on your car mat," he exclaims with a smile.
"Sometimes I find wallets or credit cards and try to find the person. . . People are always very happy to get them back." He remarks that often the money is gone from the wallet when he finds it, but usually important identification and financial cards remain. He takes any credit cards to the bank of the wallet's owner. Once, he found a Tri-Met I.D. card in a wallet; its owner, a Tri-Met employee, came out to collect it immediately so he'd have the important ID for immediate use on his route.
He adds, "When I find car keys I post a notice on Nextdoor.com." He has a generous attitude about finding hypodermic needles, which he says are less common these days. "I am glad I find them before they do any more damage."
Barron doesn't pick up cigarette butts because "there are too many", but when he finds "orphan gloves" in the fall and winter he takes the trouble to wash them and take them to a community recycling center on N.E. Alberta Street, where un-matching gloves are laid out and sold for one dollar each.
When asked by THE BEE if he considers himself a role model, he says he doesn't want to be thought of as unusual. "Anybody could do this," he shrugs. And maybe more neighbors should – especially after the weather warms up.
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